So it happened. LIV Golf took off. The Saudi-backed league held its first tournament in opposition to the PGA. It saw a different format -with teams- and several players in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings. At the same time, PGA held its Canadian Open.
The Canadian Open was affected insofar as some players that could have made it to the tournament are not present, but the main player that was absent is Dustin Johnson (USA), who last won a PGA tournament in 2020, the Masters.
It is reported that the PGA tournament went on as per usual. Rory McIlroy (IRL) won his 21st PGA tournament, moving one ahead of Greg Norman (AUS), who is currently serving as the face of LIV Golf.
In LIV Golf, Carl Schwartzel (ZAF) won over 4 Million Dollars for taking the first win. Four of the top five players were members of Stinger GC, the winning team, as fellow South Africans Hennie du Plessis, Branden Grace, and Louis Oosthuizen were second, third, and fifth.
Andy Ogletree (USA), ranked 1404th in the world, made 120,000 USD -then times what he had made in his career- for finishing joint 47th. For someone like him, this tournament in itself is possibly life-changing.
For several of the golfers in the field, it is understandable to take a paycheck that can change their lives for playing golf.
Indeed, the intentions behind the funders -the Saudi Public Investment Fund- are probably doing this for sportswashing the dismal human rights records in Saudi Arabia. It can seem disturbing to accept a paycheck from them.
At the same time, many millions of people (in the middle of high-paying jobs) also accept checks from industries that, for example, contribute to global warming, to the consumption of meat, or indeed rigged political systems. They are just judged s people that are doing their job, however.
It is the media’s, the citizen’s, the institution’s, and the nation’s job to continue demanding that Saudi improve its human rights record. In an ideal world, everyone could refuse to work for them and a regime could collapse. That is not realistic. For the moment, an opportunity is appearing for some gofers and they are taking it.
The PGA Tour has the right to suspend players that are competing in a tournament or series that compromises theirs. So they have proceeded and suspended the PGA card holders that competed in London and did not relinquish their PGA status.
They have built a great product that has benefitted golf globally and it will continue to do so. Also, they have built a business model that is actually sustainable in the long term. Unlike LIV Golf, which is not broadcast on TV, which is unlikely to garner several big sponsors due to its affiliation with Saudi, and is unlikely to receive event fees for the same reason.
It is not the first time that breakaway series emerge. Some, like the World Series of Cricket, disappeared. Some, like the Professional Darts Corporation, remained and took over. LIV Golf will not take over and will not have the same prestige.
LIV Golf is likely going to represent good money for some players for a few years and then perhaps die out, probably failing in its purpose to sportswash Saudi (i.e.-create an apologetic narrative to their brutal means of silencing critics, among other Human Rights violations), which is so far too tarnished to be salvaged in the middle-term.
Only time will tell. For now, we will see many of the stars from both circuits compete together at the US Open, which has not negated entry to any golfer that has originally been entitled to compete.